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Date With Your Family, A

Published 1950

Advises children to do whatever is necessary -- even lie -- to achieve harmonious family relations. This portrait of manners among the affluent places a premium on pleasant, unemotional behavior, and contains some interesting do's and don'ts sequences. Key line: "These boys treat their dad as though they were genuinely glad to see him, as though they really missed him..." Director: Edward C. Simmel. Cinematography: Harry F. Burrell. Script: Arthur V. Jones. Editor: Miriam Bucher. With Ralph Hodges ("Son"). Originally filmed in Kodachrome. Outtakes are also on this site.

Run time 10:00
Producer Simmel-Meservey
Sponsor N/A
Audio/Visual Sd, B&W


A Date With Your Family, a true suburban horror story, outdoes all other social guidance films by advising kids to do whatever is necessary Ñ even lie Ñ to achieve harmonious family relations. The odd title reveals its odd thesis: that teenagers should treat a family dinner as if it was a date, a date with someone who they really wanted to be with. As the voice of authority tells us, ÒThese boys greet their Dad as though they were genuinely glad to see him, as though they really missed being away from him.Ó And in a world where "the women of the family feel they owe it to the men of the family to look relaxed,Ó there seems to be little reason for ÒDaughterÓ to study as hard as ÒSonÓ before dinner. ÒPleasant, unemotional conversation helps the digestion.Ó Words to live by.
Simmel-Meservey produced a number of films on courtesy, etiquette and behavior (Let's Give a Tea, Junior Prom, Dinner Party; Obligations, Introductions and others). All employ an authoritative-sounding narrator (who is not above trying to crack a wry joke at times) but none let the actors speak directly; the voice of authority is never challenged. More than other company's films, they play on fear and guilt. A Date With Your Family was one of their most successful releases, picked up for distribution by industry giant Encyclopaedia Britannica Films.
A contemporary review authored by classroom teachers criticized this film, which appears to have been shot in affluent West Los Angeles, for showing an upper-class family to which many students might not be able to relate. What do you think?


Ken Smith sez: This brain-deadening film seems to go on forever, but it's well worth repeated viewing. It's probably one of the last to reflect pre-war social behavior; the great classless society of the fifties was just emerging and "formality" had not yet become a dirty word (see DINNER PARTY, HOW DO YOU DO and JUNIOR PROM as other examples).
A narrator explains that teenaged "Daughter" and "Brother" treat every meal with their family as if it were "a truly special occasion." We follow the progress of a typical meal while the narrator offers a continuous stream of advice, such as; "pleasant, unemotional conversation helps digestion," and "the dinner table is no place for discontent." Of course, Mother and Daughter do all the cooking, while Father and Brother show deference and appreciation. "This will make them want to continue pleasing you," the narrator adds. "Help cut your meat, Junior?"



Reviewer: Seto-Kaiba_Is_Stupid - - May 4, 2014
Subject: blanked
review blanked as it was very poor
Reviewer: xtguy - - May 4, 2014
Subject: Dinner with The Stepford's
To understand this film better, you must realize the whole different attitude adults and society in general had towards children and teenagers at the time (although this film is from 1950, it generally reflects prewar attitudes and beliefs). Children were not really seen as individual people but more as extensions of the parents themselves.

You can see this in how the older brother doesn't even have his own room but has to share it with his little brother probably a decade younger than him. Plus, he must be a mini substitute parent at times, cleaning up the kid before supper, sitting next to him and cutting his meat. Sis has it much worse. Although she likely has her own bedroom, she is already a virtual extension of mom, having to attend to the dinner as soon as she walks in from school. Mom may have started dinner earlier but it is now her job to finish it (but first must dress up so she will be "visually pleasing" to the men at the table). Not only must she finish up the cooking but then serve it and then clean up (look at her wiping her brow over the kitchen sink in the (on seperate page) color outakes of this film. Where did she get the time to make that handmade centerpiece of flowers from thw garden? Before breakfast? In the middle of the night?

Notice too she serves everyone else cake but takes none for herself. Her parents get the chairs with the arms, while she has to put up with a much plainer chair with no arms (we can't see what kinds of chairs the boys are sitting on.)

My older sister was born in 1943 and tells me how much cooking, ironing, cleaning and babysitting of younger siblings she had to do in the 50's (while the brother 4 years younger than her was expected to do nothing). She felt like a maid or a housekeeper, not a daughter.

Although I was not born until 1957, I do remember my parents often saying "Children are to be seen and not heard". There was still much attitude that children were just extensions of their parents.

Back in the 1930's and earlier children were often thought of as "little savages" that had to be strictly guided and trained in manners and courtesy in order to live in a civilized society.

Back in those times teens (girls especially) could not wait to turn 21, to be able to wear what were considered adult clothes, thought of as adults and attend adult parties (view "What Makes A Good Party" from 1950 for what adults thought suitable gatherings for older teen/college age "children".)

Any adult-even a total stranger, had authority over a child or teen and the strangers' word was accepted 'verbatim' by other adults over the child or teen, because children or teens were not thought of as persons in their own right and had no say or opinion over what adults siad-even complete strangers.
Reviewer: realsurf - - December 15, 2010
Subject: To all the Barney Kids
I grew up in the '50s.
Was dinner like this? At first I'd say no.
But in reality it was similar. The 4 boys in my family weren't allowed to act up and a spilled glass of milk sent you from the table. Mom did all the cooking and Dad complimented her every single night. We were expected to arrive at the table when called and we asked to be excused when finished.
I know you smug Gen-what ever you are, are thinking "Where's the TV?" "Where's the Ipod?" "Where's the profanity...the mouthing off to parents..the absolute worship of children?" It was still waiting in the wings for todays parents to deal with the entitled, self-absorbed brats that America is producing as children.
It may seem silly to you now but wait until your precious offspring tells you to "Talk to the hand".
Reviewer: *Roxy* - - August 6, 2010
Subject: Don't make to much of it
I Enjoyed this very much and although it may not be a page out of true history, it is a page out of cinematic history. I always find this type of stuff entertaining and humorous and although I may not wholey agree, I do get where they were headed with this in terms of the message.....sit down, have a meal and converse with your family every night and while doing so how about showing interest, appreciation and and a few kind words for one another(just maybe not nearly at the cheese level suggested in the film).
Reviewer: lisanne001 - - September 20, 2009
Subject: It's Not That Terrible
There's nothing really that freakish or awful here. It's a bit extreme, but it's only how people should strive to behave. In our time, when manners have been forgotten because they seem insincere or unreal what we see here horrifies us. But look around and see how poor behavior affects everyone of us. Look at how politicians in Washington insult one another needlessly. How we act without regard for the feelings of others. How we believe in "my rights, your wrong". The negativity expressed towards this film is a good indication of how far we have moved away from being a polite society. I don't think that's a good thing.
Reviewer: bizzyditch - - July 5, 2009
Subject: "Sinister"?? LOL!
"We are told that mother and daughter "seem to feel" that it's their duty to please the men by dressing up nicely. It's "owed to" the men. The "as though" line isn't sinister?"

No, it's not "sinister" at all. The narrator uses the phrase "as though" because he's an observer of the action. He's not reading the actor's minds. He's narrating and remarking on how things SEEM by the way the actors express themselves, hold themselves, and interact with other people.

"I can say from experience that few things are less pleasant as a kid than being compelled to play-act over the dinner table at being a happy family, but that's just what this short film tells us to do."

It's hell on the adults when the kids act like brats! The whole point of this film is to treat members of your family with the same courtesy and respect you'd give to your friends (of course, with the comments of some people on this thread, there's no guarantee they'd treat their friends very well, either!)

So if you can't treat your family at least as well as you'd treat your friends, then how about treating them the way you'd like to be treated? What's so hard about being considerate? That there are other people in the world besides you? That the members of your family DESERVE to be treated well?

LatinGal is absolutely right. I totally agree with what she said, but then, my family and I get along marvelously. It requires some effort, as do all interactions with human beings - but we agree it's worth it.

Nothing at all sinister involved (maybe some of us are luckier than others, or maybe we work at it!)
Reviewer: monoceros4 - - May 16, 2009
Subject: Father, I had a feeling today.
"As for the quote about the boys greeting their father 'as though' they are happy to see him, there's nothing sinister in the line at all."

Come now! You talk as though that were the only creepy line about concealing your feelings or putting up a facade. We are told that mother and daughter "seem to feel" that it's their duty to please the men by dressing up nicely. It's "owed to" the men. The "as though" line isn't sinister? Maybe the second "as though they missed him" immediately afterward is sinister, though. Or maybe the bit where father treats his daughter "as though her were his best girl" is sinister. "Unemotional" conversation is stressed several times--in fact, the narrator lays down so many conditions on what you should talk about at the dinner table that it prompts the question of what you _can_ talk about.

I'm not saying that family dinners ought to be avoided or that politeness and courtesy are bad. I am saying that nothing is gained, however, by _enforced_ family cordiality. I can say from experience that few things are less pleasant as a kid than being compelled to play-act over the dinner table at being a happy family, but that's just what this short film tells us to do.
Reviewer: clr2sea - - January 14, 2009
Subject: Hilarious!
First, to LatinGal: I'm glad you left America too, u have no sense of humor. Now, about the movie: hilarious! I think stuff like this is funny because anyone who knows anything about the fiftys knows it wasn't at all like that. My own little family was never like that; I didn't live in the 50s, but my family members who did have told me quite some stories about it, and nobody had a "perfect family". I love Ward Cleaver's narration. If u like this, you'll love Leave it to Beaver, with the Beaver hating on girls and Eddie Haskell training to be a lifelong criminal. Stuff like this helps to poke fun at a time that was very repressed and hypocrritcal.
Reviewer: LatinGal - - March 22, 2008
Subject: Why diss it?
I don't understand why people have such venom and contempt when reviewing this film - and pretty much every film from the 1940s and 1950s. People emphasized good manners and trying to be pleasant and kind to one another, or as this film says, treat others with 'warmth and gentleness.' Why do people insist that's a recipe for mental illness or suicide or a sign of hidden incest? I think it's their own jaded, cynical and even perverse minds.

As for the quote about the boys greeting their father 'as though' they are happy to see him, there's nothing sinister in the line at all. Look at their faces: they are smiling. The father is smiling. He's interested in 'Junior's' baseball glove. The narrator is being DESCRIPTIVE, not prescriptive. He did not say, 'These boys hate their father, but they are so repressed and terrified of him that they feign pleasure at seeing him.' That's the spin of reviewers. Everyone in the scene looks happy. Someone said Dad looks angry all the time. No - he does not. He is smiling EXCEPT when the sister is running her mouth without letting anyone else talk; the brother is describing a fight, or the children are fighting. Who would NOT be unhappy and stressed sharing a dinner table with people who do those things? It's normal for a parent to be unhappy with children fighting, hogging the conversation or grossing people out at the dinner table. This father's not a monster - just a normal person who doesn't want a helping of gore or gossip with his dinner.
And I watched it and don't see anywhere where the narrator says, 'You should lie' to maintain peace in the family. 'Be your best self at the dinner table' is civilized advice. You'd do it if you went out with friends - are family not worth the same respect and courtesy? You should be boring, disgusting, or aggressive with family, but put on good manners for strangers? The hypocrisy in the reviews lies with the reviewers, who seem to think that behaving in a civilized manner, with 'warmth and gentleness' to your family is somehow bad. Maybe that's why we have a country full of people who don't know how to behave with warmth and gentleness to strangers. They never learned it at home.

It's a fact - research shows it - that having pleasant family meals together does, indeed, build healthy families and foster good memories. It's simply always been a mark of civilized manners to keep unpleasant discussions, arguments and so on away from the dinner table. Nothing ruins a meal like a family fighting. And it's also true that it's bad for your digestion to be in a state of stress and anger while eating.

But in a country where people eat 'meals' while driving and engaging in road-rage at the same time, and sitting down to a family meal is a thing of the past, these age-old civilized virtues are anathema. The barbarians are, indeed, at the gate. Thank God I left America and live in Central Europe, where people of all classes and economic backgrounds still value family meals, gracious civility and 'warmth and gentleness' whether at the family table or in public.

Now let's sit back and see how many people attack this review because they never learned manners at home, and feel safe attacking strangers in a public forum.
Reviewer: Johnny Squares - - September 8, 2006
Subject: A true classic!
From the smooth yet authoritative voice-over by Hugh Beaumont(Ward, I'm worried abut the Beaver too), to the rigid roles each family member must conform to...this film is the ultimate "how-to" for a 1950's America. Mon, Dad, Sister, Brother and Junior are going to have a nice family meal together even if it kills them. I find myself asking questions like "who worte this film?" and "why?". The answer, I'm afraid, is that it was written by the guardians of a paranoid and repressed culture. They made this film because this was going to be how things will be forever and ever. So you better know how to behave in our perfect society. Indeed the ultimate value of this and similar films has to be allowing us to recognize that no era is really "timeless". While nobody may have predicted just how cynnical society would become by comparison, we must acknowledge that all things change radically over time. So I say enjoy this wonderful snapshot of American life...then go home and try and have a date with your own family and make a film about it!
Reviewer: verschlagenfuchs - - June 4, 2006
Subject: Noble LIE
Where are the outtakes? and the colourised version? anyway, this reminds me of what life was like when I was little, my parents tried to have this type of life.... and failed. remember this, this film is an ideal; and the people who made it knew it. They also knew that it was impossible. The message of the film is please try to be like this, but if you aren't we understand. Unfortunately, that is not the way it gets treated, people misread the situation. So, just laugh at it if you will, just don't get full of yourself.
Reviewer: ERD - - September 6, 2005
Subject: Somewhere Over the Rainbow...
This film is far too idealistic-even for the era it was made in. Wishful thinking on behalf of the script writer.
Reviewer: Visaman - - July 29, 2004
Subject: Watch the MST#K Version
I recently saw this on a Mystery Science 3000 DVD, and the crew riff on it rather well, although the riffs seem to write themselves. If you can find this at your local video store do so!
Reviewer: BrooksBatson - - May 5, 2004
Subject: Would to GOD
America once thought that all men could live in an harmonious society of excellence, each according to his ability under God, for God, and for one another. This is what the men & women fought for, 'Laborem ad Futurem', as my Father's WWII Army Group motto declared. Thomas Jefferson had expressed it -- the ancient Romans had aspired to it, in the darkness of heathenism, but fell far short from the time of the Punic Wars' devestations : every man plowing his own field, the Senator returning to farm by his own hand after serving the people, the Matron a Queen in her Home. Christ taught it; many of our native forefathers were puritans or Catholics or Mennonites escaping from religious servitude -- were Jews moving to make not just 'better' lives westward, but 'best' lives for themselves and their progeny, as possibly the ancestors of the makers of this teaching effort. 1950 was the year after I was born; returned from the War, Americans began to make a new start at living the their cultural dream in the nobility in which it was conceived and early practiced. The pursuit of a pious, gentil nobility was to be in the reach 'of even the poorest families'. It is most certainly noble, but not 'class' prejudice to motivate; for 'most families do not have servants', and so the children take their place and Son treats Mother as good as 'his best girl'. Daughter is practising design and art when she produces the flower centrepiece, and judges it more appropriate for the sideboard; this is what she is learning while Son hits the books. Would to GOD I could go back and live that dream, yet with a real & whole Christianity -- the Faith I now know to be True. I have the moral right to say these things: because I was the worst of the vicious innovators who rebelled against everything this film taught, as an hippy in Denver who now is on chemotherapy for the hepatitis C he contracted 36 years ago, and who never completed an education, in order fruitlessly to 'turn on, tune in, and drop out'. Would to GOD . . . Not a missionary, but preparing for Mennonite church membership and to become an Herbalist, I am ready to share what I have learnt with anyone who doesn't want to demean, but to share or learn:
Reviewer: heiniken - - April 19, 2004
Subject: And we still wonder why hippies came into existence?
This has to be one of the most outdated and ridiculous films I have ever seen. Besides the fact that the characters are simply refered to as "daughter" and "father", it's an example of one sick person's idea of a perfect dinner. I can only imagine how those poor kids turned out today. "Junior" probably spends most of his day now attending a psychiatric ward while "Sister" is still trying to appear attractive for her family. (Incest?)

The father always appears ready to beat his kids within an inch of their life for doing things like hogging up the dinner conversation. Also the brother has to be the biggest tool I have ever seen. It's no surprise he got into a fight at school, it's just too bad the person didn't end his sorry life.

Overall this movie is just down right funny and outdated. In the beginning the narrator even feels that no one during his time does this. Come on, do you really think there was ever a family out there that was this nuts?
Reviewer: Kieran Kenney - - February 12, 2004
Subject: Interminable
Oh my god. This movie goes on for ever. Once you get past that, there's something else that's quite striking and creepy: it's actually better to lie and suppress in order to have a good relationship with your family. The who boys are, for instance, greeting their dad on his arival home from work "as though they were genuinely glad to see him." God forbid they actually are.

This is one of the saddest families I can think of. Nobody seems to like anybody else. The mother seems very left out, the father seems universally disliked, and he conversely has genuine distaste for the company of either of his teenage children. They are all portrayed some of the most unattractive actors in the history of cinema, not to mention the most gifted when it comes to scenery-chewing. The brother and sister seem to be competing for the "Bette Davis Atchievement in Over Acting Award," while the father is just pissed off. And junior? Well, he's like the mother: no close-ups, and every right to be cross about it.

Meanwhile the narrator reminds us: "You can be yourself at the dinner table. Just make sure it's your best self." 9/10
Reviewer: Sherikay - - January 10, 2004
Subject: Family Dinner, A Lost Art
I loved it! Of course it's outdated, it's more than 50 years old. The gender stereotypes are laughable today. And sure,it's pretentious. But what's wrong with teaching children good manners, courtesy and responsibility at home? Family dinner is a time to work collaboratively, engage in pleasant coversation and be supportive of each other. Some of the values portrayed here are timeless. These authoritative films harken back to a time when do-gooders and social workers tried to provide supports to immigrants by teaching them how to "be American". In the fifties, there was obviously a market for these films. At the time this was made, we were still developing the "middle class" as a result of the GI Bill's educational and mortgage benefits. People were eager to learn how to be more affluent. While it's wonderful that contemporary family life shuns such rigidity, we should be cautious not to throw the baby out with the bath water.
Reviewer: Eponymous - - August 29, 2003
Subject: The Narrator
The narrator here is Hugh Beaumont -- Ward Cleaver on "Leave It to Beaver."
Reviewer: quamp - - May 29, 2003
Subject: ... is a date with BOREDOM!!
The main problem with this short film is that it's very dated. Everyone acts obscenely cheerful and the narrator is the most guilty of the bunch. I think it might have been entertaining and instructional in the 1950's, but today, it's outdated, and just silly. The scene where son talks about the fight was unintentionally hillarious.
Reviewer: Spuzz - - April 13, 2003
Subject: Still a classic of unbelievable stature
I can remember seeing this even before this site came aboutt, it was on Prelinger's VHS collection that came out a number of years ago. Although I had'nt seen it in a long while, it's amazing how much I remember of it, and how remarkable this film is. Everything in this film just totally smacks of pretentiousness, to the point of scariness. I know it's moot to ask this, but who on earth truly acts like this? Mother and Daughter (they never get past generalized 'names' for these people) seem happy enough slaving around the kitchen all day, and father is worshipped to the point of godliness. It's the 'Brother' and 'Junior' characters that always get me going. Brother just cracks me up as he proves to me that he is the ultimate dweeb ever produced on film. Words can't say how much I love his character. And the boy playing Junior totally looks at the Father character all the time as if to say "who the heck are you? You're not my father, you fool!"
Reviewer: Christine Hennig - - October 16, 2002
Subject: A Date with Your Family
Are you afflicted with 50's nostalgia? If so, this film is a good cure. 50's kids are told in no uncertain terms that family harmony is their responsibility and is dependent upon good manners and "appropriate" behavior at the dinner table. A standard of perfection in family dining is shown that kids are expected to live up to every night! There is no room in the perfect family dinner for emotions, child requests of any kind, or any other kind of talk likely to stir the emotions. This kind of repression was the dark side of the "nice" families portrayed in sitcoms of the period. In fact, it's a lot like watching one of those sitcoms, only with a narrator constantly telling you that this is the only good way for families to be and if your family doesn't meet this standard, it's your fault. Appalling, and therefore fascinating.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: *****. Also available on Ephemeral Films, Mystery Science Theatre 3000, Episode #602: Invasion U.S.A., and Our Secret Century, Vol. 3: The Behavior Offensive.
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